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FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 12 - Reinard Wilson

Reinard

Reinard Wilson, DE, 1993-1996

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2009

Over a four year career at Florida State University, Reinard Wilson won a national title, teamed up with another All-time Seminole great to form the most dynamic pass-rushing duo in school history and shattered the FSU career sack record in the process, setting a new mark that stands to this day.

A whopping 35.5 sacks.

Reinard Wilson's career sacks record at Florida State could take decades to fall. It might not ever be broken, period.

Even with teams playing more games per season in this era, a multitude of factors in the evolution of the game have made notching even 25 sacks in a career a tall order. Not that getting 25 was ever easy, but 35.5? Bjoern Werner was as dominant as any defensive lineman FSU has had in the past decade and he would have needed another 12 if he had returned as a senior just to tie Wilson's mark.

It's a record that will require more than just talent if it's ever to be broken. It will require staying healthy and a little bit of luck in addition to elite athleticism just to even get close to 35.5 sacks again at Florida State.

Born in Gainesville, Reinard Wilson grew up and played high school football in Lake City, Florida before accepting a scholarship from Florida State. 

In his first year in Tallahasee Wilson saw time as a reserve defensive tackle, collecting 24 tackles and a couple of sacks as the Seminoles won their first national title. Then in 1994 Wilson slid outside to defensive end where he would unleash 33.5 sacks (just over 11 per year) over the next three seasons. As a sophomore he hauled down 40 tackles and 11 sacks, eye-opening numbers from a second-year player but not enough to garner him any postseason attention.

That all changed over the next two seasons though.

From 1995-1996 Florida State had the most dominant defensive line in the school's history. With Andre Wadsworth in the middle and Peter Boulware and Wilson rushing from either side the Seminole front lived on the other side of the line of scrimmage for two seasons. Over that time the trio combined for 55 sacks in two years, 50.5 of which came from Boulware and Wilson alone.

A heart-breaking Sugar Bowl loss was all that stood between the 1996 Seminole defense and taking a place in college football history as one of the most dominant units of all-time. That '96 defense allowed an average of just 59 rushing yards per game and the ends (Wilson/Boulware) combined for 32.5 sacks that year. 

Wilson was a cornerstone on both of those lines. After earning three honorable mention All-American nominations for his nine sack campaign as a junior, 13 more sacks as a senior earned him consensus NCAA All-American honors and All-American honors from six different media outlets in '96. 

He was drafted that Spring in the 1997 NFL Draft 14th overall by the Bengals and played a seven-year NFL career. 

On its face, Wilson's career sacks record could be worthy of his inclusion in the school's all-time top-5 just on its own. The most prolific sack-artist in the history of a school that's largely earned its national reputation on getting to the passer? That's a no-brainer for the top 15, but it doesn't tell the whole story either.

In a lot of ways Reinard Wilson's all-time FSU career sacks record is like Emmitt Smith's all-time NFL rushing record in terms of what they represent. Does Wilson's sack record mean he's one of the greatest Seminoles of all-time? Absolutely. Does having it make him the best ever though? No. 

Emmitt Smith is without a doubt one of the greatest NFL runners of all-time, he is not the best though. Whether you give that honor Walter Payton or Barry Sanders or someone else, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that isn't a Cowboys fan that would even say Smith was the most talented back in his era. Most prolific? Yes. Best? No.

A lot of Smith's success came from his ability to stay healthy and the fact he played on offenses that were so good you couldn't afford to pay him extra attention. With Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin (both in the Hall of Fame) stretching out defenses for most of his career you couldn't afford to put extra men in the box to stop the run against Dallas. It didn't hurt running behind Moose Johnson either. 

The point is not to diminish Emmitt Smith, he had to go make the plays and be opportunistic and use his ability to reach the numbers that he did, but it would be crazy to discount the other things that helped get him there. 

Now jump back to Florida State and sack totals, Reinard Wilson is not so unlike Emmitt Smith. More than anything Wilson's sack record is a testament to his consistency.

Wilson was never the best player on that D-Line. Peter Boulware finished a sack and a half behind Wilson (34 total) in one less season at FSU, his 19 sacks in 1996 is still a school record.

And going by the inexact science of NFL scouting, Wilson was likely considered the third best player on those FSU lines as both Boulware AND Wadsworth were drafted higher.

Reinard Wilson profited from playing during FSU's heyday on defenses that had so much talent up front that opposing offenses had to pick their poison because they just couldn't block everybody. In 1996, offensive lines had a choice between paying extra attention to FSU's all-time single season sack leader, their all-time career sack leader and the highest NFL pick in FSU history. 

None of that is meant to be an indictment on Wilson though, he helped those other two out as much as they helped him. In fact, Wilson had his repuation first. His 11 sack 1994 season got him on the map before Boulware and Wadsworth were know quanitities. Peter Boulware saw his share of favorable matchups because Reinard Wilson was causing a ruckus on the other side of the line and vice versa.

The point was simply that this wasn't one guy from one side of the line doing it all by himself either. The numbers look a little better because the guys playing around him were elite too.

The unfortunate part, for Seminoles fans at least, is that the product of Boulware, Wadsworth and Wilson's dominance, that 1996 defense, doesn't get remembered outside of Tallahassee in the way it probably should be. 

But that doesn't change the fact that Reinard Wilson is one of the greatest Seminoles of all-time.

 

Next up is an All-Time great from the 1970's...

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